Analysis – 08 Potential Fees

Analysis of the National Park Service Recreation Fee System, June 1977

 5C. Potential Fees


The Service could increase revenue by charging user fees for services now provided free or by establishing entrance fees where they are not now charged. This would also provide greater uniformity through-out the System.

1. Entrance Fees

In the 1976 fee reports from the parks, most reported no potential for establishing new entrance fees. Some gave reasons including inability to control access, legislative restrictions, and limited facilities. Others did not comment. Parks which reported potential for charging new entrance fees are shown in the following table:


Park Est. Capital
Costs Required
Est. Annual
Oper. Cost
Est. Revenue
Cedar Breaks $76,000 $52,000 $100,000
Chaco Canyon 4,000 11,000 24,000
Custer Battlefield 10,000 13,000 50,000
Devil’s Postpile 5,000 5,000 9,000
Haleakala 60,000 50,000 280,000
Joshua Tree 36,000 56,000 200,000
Mt. McKinley 200,000 24,000 146,000
Saratoga 27,000 25,000 80,000
Whitman Mission 12,000 12,000 19,000
  $430,000 $248,000 $908,000


Implementation of fees at these parks should be favorably considered. Inquiries should be made at those that did not comment to see if fee potential exists. Furthermore, the Planning Process should be revised to include an evaluation of whether fees should be charged.

2. User Fees

In the 1976 Fee Report, the parks identified 23 potential user fees and 5 potential special recreation permits for which fees could be charged. Specifically for user fees these include:

  1. Camping – 11 parks
  2. Backcountry use permits – 4 parks
  3. Miscellaneous user fee activities – 8 parks

Many parks reported that funds would be required to upgrade facilities and cover collection costs. Insufficient information exists to pro vide reasonable estimates of additional revenue or whether these fees would be cost-effective. (See Table V below for details).

Congress has set policy for user fees and special recreation permits. The House Report to the LWCF 1972 amendments states:

“It seems so abundantly clear as to be almost axiomatic:

That the users of Federal recreation areas should contribute more to Federal recreation programs than non-users;

That frequent users should contribute more than occasional users;

That users of more sophisticated facilities should pay more than users of modest facilities; and

That users of modest facilities should pay more than non-users of any special facilities.” (p. 2827 )

Special recreation permits may also carry a user fee for “group activities, recreation events, motorized recreation vehicles, and other specialized recreation uses . . . .” (P.L. 92-347).

However, there are several legal restrictions on charging user fees. User fees may not be charged for certain facilities used by the general public. Camping fees may be charged only if certain facilities and services are provided. (See Section II for details).